Bristol is a large, thriving and bohemian city on the south-west coast of England. It is nestled in between the Mendip Hills and the Cotswolds Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and stands at the confluence of two major English rivers: the Avon, which snakes its way through the city centre; and the Severn Estuary, which separates England from Wales. All of this means unforgettable scenery and a wide variety of landscapes for you and your four-legged friend to explore (although having your hill-climbing legs ready is a must).
Bristol came to prominence due to its proud maritime heritage but it is also notable for its role in the industrial revolution, in particular for the engineering brilliance of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who built both the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Great Western Railway in and around the city. You will find ample evidence of Bristol’s history around every corner, as well as a warm welcome: Bristol is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the UK.
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Dog Friendly Bristol Must Sees
Bristol by boat
A perfect way to learn about Bristol’s maritime and industrial engineering heritage is, of course, a boat trip along the River Avon. The Bristol Ferry Company (you can find them at 44 The Grove, near Queen’s Square in the town centre) operates a regular water bus service, as well as both public and private boat trips. If a more traditional tour is what you’re looking for, you could also try No. 7 Boat Trips, who are based nearby at Old Bridge Master’s Cabin on Wapping Wharf, or Bristol Packet Boat Trips, located near Brunel’s SS Great Britain on Gas Ferry Road.
Spending a day exploring Clifton is a must for anyone who is visiting Bristol for the first time. On the east side of the bridge you will discover an exciting cluster of shops, cafes and bars, as well as the spectacular parks of The Downs. Here you can climb Observatory Hill to the Clifton Observatory, where there are matchless views both across the city below as well as Brunel’s great engineering masterpiece, the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Dogs are not permitted to go inside the Clifton Bridge Visitor Centre, which stands at its western end, but they are free to cross the bridge – provided they bring their owners with them.
If you’ve brought your car with you, a day out to Cheddar Gorge – about 20 miles to the southwest of Bristol city centre – is highly recommended. This ancient limestone gorge is one of Britain’s most spectacular natural landmarks, set in the glorious Mendip Hills countryside. There are countless dog-friendly walks and trails to follow, or for the more adventurous pooch (and owner), several of the cave tours in the area also allow dogs.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
Admittedly, this suggestion is very time-specific, but if you do find yourself in Bristol in early August, you would be a fool to miss out. The Fiesta started in 1979 but has since grown into one of Europe’s largest hot air balloon festivals. It is an annual, free, event held at Ashton Court country estate and, twice a day for four days, up to a hundred balloons will be launched at a time.
The Best Dog Friendly Walks in Bristol
A 490-acre area of woodland just to the north of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Leigh Woods combines dense woodland with coppices and glades. This beautiful and popular attraction is both a nature reserve and site of special scientific interest, as well as housing ancient landmarks such as Stokeleigh Camp and an Iron Age fort. Your dog will have the time of their life.
A 412-acre area of limestone downland in the city’s Clifton area, your dog will love to gallop around the wide open spaces overlooked by the suspension bridge above.
Brandon Hill Park
An attractive and hilly green space in the centre of town, not far from Bristol Cathedral or the SS Great Britain, Brandon Hill is Bristol’s oldest public park. In addition to paths, trees and a small lake, it is also home to Cabot Tower, a 32-metre tall viewing tower built in 1897. The whole park offers fantastic views across the city and the River Avon.
Also known as Castle Green, this green space in the city centre used to be Bristol’s main shopping district until it was destroyed in a bombing raid during the Blitz in 1940. Subsequently redeveloped as a public park, it re-opened in 1978. Sandwiched in between the city buildings and the river, there’s never a shortage of things happening here, be it things to look at or things to do.
Ashton Court Estate
An 850-acre country estate just 10 minutes from the city centre, Ashton Court is home to the annual International Balloon Fiesta but also boasts golf courses, mountain biking trails, deer parks and stately homes. The sheer size of Ashton Court means you and your dog are simply bound to find something interesting to explore.
Dog-friendly Cafés and Restaurants in Bristol
Bristol is such a dog-friendly place that you and your furry friend are going to be absolutely spoilt for choice, with new, exciting and varied options at every turn. That said, here are five of our suggestions to get you started.
Mud Dock Cafe
40 The Grove, BS1 4RB
The Mud Dock Cafe is set within the Mud Dock Cycleworks, a two-storey reclaimed warehouse on the bank of the River Avon. As well as bicycle repair and maintenance, it offers breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner along with options for both hot drinks or a bar. They specialise in small plate tapas and meze dishes from the grill. That and bicycles, of course.
123 East Street, BS3 4ER
An entirely plant-based junk food coffee shop and vegan grocers located to the south of the River Avon in the city’s Bedminster area. If you feel you’ve overdone it on the treats once you’re finished, Victoria Park is nearby so you and your four-legged friend can get some exercise.
Boston Tea Party
75 Park Street, BS1 5PF
293 Gloucester Road, BS7 8PE
St. John’s Court, Whiteladies Road, BS8 2QY
A thriving and expanding local success story, Boston Tea Party now have 23 locations across the south and west of England with three in Bristol, including the original premises at Park Street. They offer a wide variety of breakfast, brunch and lunch options – including plenty of vegan and free-from alternatives – and are well worth a visit.
Farr’s Lane, Narrow Quay, BS1 4BB
12 Baldwin Street, BS1 1SD
A friendly, award-winning family-owned coffee house that is starting to develop into something of a chain in the southwest of England: the Baldwin Street location opened its doors in September 2022 and they also have premises in both Bath and Oxford. Go for the speciality coffees and loose-leaf teas, stay for the cake.
7 Gaol Ferry Steps, BS1 6WE
A speciality coffee shop on Wapping Wharf, part of the small island created by the River Avon in the city centre. By night it transforms itself into a laid-back riverside bar, with craft beer and cocktails on the menu.
Dog Friendly Pubs in Bristol
The Pony & Trap
291 North Street, BS3 1JU
Opened by an intrepid brother and sister duo, the Pony Bistro at The Pony & Trap is one of the city’s finest restaurants, located to the south of the river near Ashton Gate football stadium. As recently as 2020, The Pony held a Michelin star yet the pub has remained resolutely dog-friendly throughout. More of this sort of thing, we say.
The Pump House
Merchant’s Road, BS8 4PZ
A cosy, traditional-style English pub with and impressive menu made from regional and seasonal produce, The Pump House’s ultimate trump card is its large sun trap riverside beer garden. A great place to go and sit after a day yomping around Clifton Downs with your dog.
The Dark Horse
172-174 Church Road, BS5 9HX
A rustic English inn with a series of modern twists, such as a roof terrace, disco lounge and space for live performances. Located to the east of the centre of Bristol, it is right next to the beautiful St. George Park in the city’s Redfield area. Your dog will want to take their appetite with them for this one: The Dark Horse provide a dog-size portion of their Sunday roasts.
The Alma Tavern
18-20 Alma Vale Road, BS8 2HY
A unique location at the heart of the Clifton area of the city, The Alma Tavern boasts a pub, restaurant and also its own theatre. They are also enthusiastic about dogs: if your hound is lucky and has their very best face on, they might even make it onto their Instagram as their Dog of the Week.
The Lazy Dog
112 Ashley Down Road, BS7 9JR
A modern gastropub with a rustic interior, The Lazy Dog prides itself on its rotating selection of award-winning local ales. Located to the north of the city, close to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club’s stadium, your pooch would be well advised to ignore the pub’s name and keep on their toes: they have been known to have organised doggy talent contests.
Dog Friendly Shops in Bristol
Tobacco Factory Market
Raleigh Road, BS3 1TF
A weekly community market which takes place outdoors – but under cover – by the old Tobacco Factory warehouse just to the south of the river in the Bedminster area. There are over 40 stores and stalls for you and your hairy pal to investigate, from homewares and books to records, toys and gifts.
A one-and-a-half mile road that runs to the north and east of Clifton Downs, Gloucester Road is Bristol’s most famous street of independently-owned stores. There are countless things to look at and discover here. If you’re not sure if your dog is allowed in with you, it’s best just to ask.
18 Portland Street, BS8 4JH
Located just to the south of Clifton Down and the Observatory, Doghouse is a one-stop dog shop that has its own cafe – including plenty of menu items for four-legged customers – pet store and grooming salon.
Dog-friendly Bristol: Where to Stay
If you’re looking to stay in a dog friendly hotel in Bristol, here’s our recommendations:
28 Portland Square, BS2 8SA
Recently opened in Bristol, the quirky boutique hotel chain now have a location just to the north of the city’s shopping quarter. It’s ideally located for your dog, too, as it stands right on the corner of Portland Square Park. They will also receive a welcome pack of toys, treats, bed and bowls on arrival, if other Artist Residence hotels are any guide.
The Dark Horse
172-174 Church Road, BS5 9HX
We’ve already mentioned The Dark Horse in Redfield: they do dog-size portions of their Sunday roasts, after all. However, there’s another string to their bow as they also have rooms to rent. While the location is a little bit outside of the city centre, it is nevertheless surrounded with parks and green spaces and well worth consideration.
The Rodney Hotel
Clifton, BS8 4HY
Ideally located on the edge of Clifton Village, The Rodney Hotel comes highly recommended by previous guests. A Georgian building with airy, high-ceilinged modern rooms, just a stone’s throw from Clifton Down and a short walk from the city centre.
Aztec Hotel & Spa
Aztec W, Almondsbury, BS32 4TS
Located ten miles to the north of the city centre, Aztec Hotel & Spa is an ideal base for people who prefer to stay in more of a countryside setting. Your dog is welcome to dine at the hotel’s lounge bar and will receive a welcome pack, bowl and bed upon arrival.
Cottages and holiday lets
With all of the wonderful and varied countryside that surrounds Bristol, you should also remember to consider the possibility of hiring a cottage or holiday let. While these may be a little way outside all of the heart of the action, their location and price will often more than make up for that, as will the fact that you have your own little home away from home.